Note added in 2023: I wrote this anti-chain-letter and the related list of chain-letter resources in the mid-1990s. At one time, I think it was a pretty well-known resource. But I haven’t updated the resource list since 1999, and I haven’t seen a chain letter in many years so I’m reluctant to spend much time/energy trying to update it.
So I’m presenting it here in its long-unupdated form for historical purposes.
Several of the odd phrases in the anti-chain-letter (such as “Good Luck but please remember”) are quotes from, or parodies of, popular chain letters of the time.
Note: if you want an ASCII copy of this letter, use your Web browser to save this page as text (and edit the resulting file to remove unwanted parts).
(Last text update: 6 March 1996. (Version 1.2))
This is an anti-chain letter. It was written by Jed Hartman, not a missionary and not from South America or Asia, in November of 1994, and modified slightly several times since then. There’s no way to tell how many times it’s been “around the world” or even what that phrase means—though at the time of writing it has never been around the world in any sense.
You are under no obligation to forward this letter. Nothing bad will happen to you because of failure to forward it. Furthermore, this letter absolves you of all bad luck you might otherwise have experienced through failure to forward other chain letters. That means you never again have to write “I’m not superstitious but...” on a chain letter and send it on; you never again have to worry that if you don’t forward a chain letter Bad Things will happen to you. Next time you get a chain letter, read this letter again and throw out the other one without forwarding it. If you want to, you can send this letter to the person who sent you the bad-luck chain letter, but again, you will not experience bad luck because of failure to pass this letter on. You may wish to keep a copy of this letter around for future use, but you may also dispose of it immediately without ill effects. If you do pass this letter on, please send only a single copy of it to any given recipient; never send multiple copies of anything to anyone. Mailbombing someone with this letter is every bit as bad as any other form of mailbombing.
Please note that by forwarding a standard chain letter to someone, you are saying, in effect, “If you don’t do what I tell you to do, something bad will happen to you.” Would you make such a threat under any other circumstances? Would you be upset if someone else made such a threat to you? Just say no—don’t be a victim of bad luck wished on you by others. Refuse to propagate the chain.
In 1994, Liz Berry received a chain letter. She sent it on, with this note attached: “Fully aware of the perversity of perpetuating this silly superstitious nonsense, and sharing the annoyance I know you now feel upon receiving it, I nevertheless feel compelled to hit you with the following... besides, who knows?” Don’t be like Liz—don’t feel compelled to forward arrant nonsense (in the form of a patently false letter which, after blatantly lying, insists that you obey it or suffer). Any potential bad luck resulting from failure to forward such a letter is negated by the letter you’re reading right now.
Gloria Acosta received the same chain letter. She sent it on too, adding, “I’m very sorry, I hate to do this but I’m not about to break this also...” Don’t apologize and don’t feel bad; break the chain and demand to know why your friends are threatening you. If they’re worried about bad luck, give them a copy of this letter. Don’t threaten people just because you’ve been told that you must or else.
Please feel free to modify or excerpt this letter to suit your circumstances. It’s in the public domain. Nobody ever modifies the standard chain letters (have you ever known anyone who’s changed them? If you changed one, you wouldn’t be forwarding it exactly, so you might get bad luck, right?), so how did the testimonials get into them? You know the ones—“Mikhail Sarnikov received this letter and didn’t forward it. In ten hours he was pummeled to death by thugs. Two days later he remembered the letter and sent it on; he instantly won the lottery and was elected President of the US.” I got news for you: those testimonials are fakes, written by the original authors of the chain letters. Consider this: how could the information about what happened to a recipient get into the letter, after the person forwarded the letter (or failed to)?
And while we’re dissecting chain letters, how does a chain letter know how many times it’s been around the world? Does it come with a map? Does it have a visa? No; the author simply thought it sounded good to say it had been around the world a bunch of times. (Does it count if the letter only makes it halfway around the world and then gets sent back? What exactly does “around the world” mean here, anyway?) Besides, the most popular chain letter in circulation claims to have been written by “a missionary from South America” and says it “comes from Venezuela”—if so, then why is the “original” of it “in New England”?
Good Luck but please remember: In ten years of receiving chain letters, I have never once passed one on. I’ve never once experienced bad luck because of not passing one on. I’ve never known anyone who’s experienced good luck because of passing one on. Others I know have also refused to propagate the chain, and have never experienced bad luck because of it. You can do it too; disbelieve those letters and break the chain. And if you can’t disbelieve, just remember that this letter will prevent any bad luck you might experience from breaking any chain letter. This is no joke.
(last updated 1/12/99)
I no longer have the time or energy to keep my chain-letter and forwarding pages current. There have been a lot of new chain letters in the 2+ years since last time I worked seriously on these pages; I’m not even going to try to document them all. I have, however, cleaned up the below links (finally; thanks to everyone who told me about the broken ones); they all work now.
If you have a chain letter and you feel you absolutely must forward it to someone, you can send it to email@example.com. Please note: you will not get a response, and I (Jed) will probably never see things sent to that address. If you want to contact me, don’t use that address. Please don’t send chain letters to Jed in an attempt to prevent perceived bad luck; that’s what nemo is there for. And please don’t send chain letters even to nemo unless you absolutely have to; I don’t want to overload the service provider.
There are three basic types of chain letters: those which promise/threaten good/bad luck; illegal pyramid-scheme letters that promise to make you lots of money; and hoaxes/urban legends.
Information about chain letters in general:
- An official statement from the Post Office about chain letters that require sending money.
- The EFF Net-folklore page on chain letters.
- Don Watrous has a nice chain letter page, including both an explanation of why pyramid schemes don’t work and a remarkably long list of related sites.
- The National Fraud Information Center provides information on illegal chain letters and other forms of fraud.
- A very silly semi-Discordian exposition on why you shouldn’t send chain letters, by John Perry.
- Two letters that give you bad luck if you forward them: one by Mark Lively (ignore the supposed Emery Lapinski copyright) and a rather more sexually oriented one by Eli-Eli-O Burke.
- Superb newspaper columnist Jon Carroll once wrote an amusing chain column.
- The Chain Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians
- I once received an anti-chain letter much like mine in email, except that it says you’ll get bad luck if you don’t forward it. I don’t approve. I’ve turned it into a Web page for comparison purposes, but if you’re superstitious I recommend not reading it, as you’ll only have to forward it to others.
- Mike “Wizard” Jittlov’s delightful Big Money parody.
- Hans Bodlaender has a very nice MMF parody called Make Enemies Fast. “My name isn’t Dave Rhodes, but who cares.”
- Make rubles fast!
The most interesting kind of hoax chain letter is the sort that tells readers to distribute it as widely as possible for some good cause. (That is, the very act of wide distribution is supposed to do good.) This is a successful strategy for getting wide distribution, as people like to do good, particularly when they can do so with minimal effort. The foremost example of this category I’ve seen so far is the email AIDS chain letter. The “Anthony Parkin” chain-letter hoax is somewhat similar: the loop has been tightened, removing the issue of gain or loss for the recipient, and the letter is to be forwarded for its own sake.
For related comments, including notes on email petitions, see my anti-forwarding page.